Oilers keep pace in NHL West playoff race
Score twice in third period to beat Coyotes for 3rd time this season
With their top line sputtering, the Edmonton Oilers got plenty of mileage from their secondary scorers and a strong start from seldom-used goalie Dwayne Roloson on Saturday night.
Defenceman Joni Pitkanen returned from a bout with the flu to score a goal and an assist, while Roloson made 38 saves in his first start since Feb. 1 to backstop Edmonton to a 5-2 win in Phoenix.
Ales Hemsky, Kyle Brodziak, Fernando Pisani and Marty Reasoner also scored for the Oilers, who have won all three meetings this season against the Coyotes.
Roloson, who lost the starting job to Mathieu Garon, picked up his first victory since Jan. 20.
"Roly was outstanding," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "Just to see him handling the puck, batting the puck, flipping the puck out, you can tell he had a high confidence level."
With the win, Edmonton kept pace with the Vancouver Canucks — 4-3 winners in Dallas — who hold down the eighth and final playoff spot in the NHL's Western Conference.
The Oilers moved into 11th place with their eighth win in the last 10 games and wrap up the season series against Phoenix on Tuesday in Edmonton.
Shane Doan and Mathias Tjarnqvist scored for the Coyotes, who fell three points behind Nashville for ninth place in the West. Phoenix, with a 36-31-5 record, is five points behind Vancouver and Calgary for the conference's final two playoff spots.
The Coyotes' downfall this season has been their play at home, where they have a 16-18-3 record, the second-worst record in the league. They have also dropped seven of their past nine against the Oilers, including four of five in Phoenix.
The Coyotes play Vancouver on Monday.
"This was the biggest game of the year for us and we got outplayed," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We got beat to loose pucks, they had a little more discipline than we did as a team and they just played a much better hockey game. It's as simple as that."
After the game, the Coyotes held a 15-minute players-only meeting.
"It's hard to put your finger on it," Doan said. "We've got 10 games to go and we're not out of it yet. We just made it that much harder. We had to win in Vancouver anyway. I'm not saying this wasn't big because it was. But we had to win anyway."
Coming off a 2-0 victory over Vancouver on Thursday, the Coyotes came out flat versus Edmonton and fell behind 1-0 in the first period on Hemsky's 19th goal of the season. It was the Oilers' 17th power-goal in their last 18 games.
They took advantage of a mental error by Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to take a 2-1 lead at 7:45 of the second period.
Bryzgalov left the crease to help cover Edmonton's Robert Nilsson as the centre skated to the left of the crease. But Nilsson passed behind Bryzgalov into the crease, where Pitkanen scored into the vacated net.
"I think we played a great 60 minutes, every guy on the team," Nilsson said. "The goalie played good, the defence played good, we didn't have any turnovers and every line scored."
After Brodziak notched his 11th goal of the season, Reasoner scored off a rebound in the low slot to make it 4-1 at 8:19 of the third.
Tjarnqvist and Pisani, into an empty net, exchanged goals in the dying minutes.